I’m volunteering as a mentor in the Salt Lake Teens Write (SLTW) program administered by SLCC’s Community Writing Center (CWC). The SLTW Mentor Training Manual states that the program is “designed to motivate both teens and mentors to strengthen their writing skills for personal, academic and professional development.” Each mentor-teen pair is supposed to work on 7-10 projects, culminating in a writing portfolio for each teen, an anthology publication of all participants’ work, and a closing celebration that will include a public reading at the end of the school year. It's a nine-month commitment to a one-hour weekly mentoring session.
I’ve been assigned to work with a 16-year-old girl at the Hser Ner Moo Community and Welcome Center, which serves immigrants and refugees from all over the world. I’ve had an initial get-to-know-you meeting with my mentee and a few of the folks who run the Hser Ner Moo Center, but I have yet to start the actual mentoring.
I can see that a major challenge for me will be managing and adapting expectations: the Hser Ner Moo staff's, my own, and my mentee’s and her family’s. My assignment from the SLTW program is only to be a writing mentor, but the Hser Ner Moo Center needs tutors who can help non-native English speakers with reading, math and science. I may need to clarify with the center staff that I’ll just be working on writing skills. My own hope in signing up for the SLTW program was that I’d be paired with a teen who was already proficient in English and would have a lot of ideas of their own about different genres and projects they wanted to try. I’ll need to adapt to mentoring a teen who might be more focused on language acquisition, and I’ll definitely need to ask other mentors in the program to share any applicable experience and advice they can offer me. My teen mentee canceled our first scheduled session right before I arrived because she had to tend her baby brother, so I’ll probably need to adapt to her family’s expectations and priorities, while encouraging my mentee and her family to commit to her full participation in our weekly mentoring sessions.
Like so many things in life, mentoring for SLTW will most likely take me in directions I hadn’t imagined when I signed up. It will all be valuable information as I learn how to work effectively with all kinds of writers in all kinds of situations.